Redefining Relocation 2 – Creating a Family Timeline: Identity and Residence

Redefining Relocation - Creating an expat family timeline for relocating, legal requirements, passports, visa, driving license and ID application and renewal The most important reasons for creating a relocation timeline are to avoid scheduling conflict between the essential tasks and and to ensure that any priorities that we have for our family are reflected in a our planning right from the start. It also allows us to clarify what lies ahead and to set our course accordingly – the earlier we see the obstacle, the smaller the change required to minimise its impact or avoid it altogether.

There are some hurdles, however, that can’t be avoided. Inevitably, these involve officialdom and the need to prove ourselves to others, whether it be in terms of residence, competence, ability or achievement…

Thankfully, most legal documentation is managed by the HR department, but because of this, it is often forgotten in the family relocation plan. However, while from a corporate perspective this part of the relocation is seen as a non-negotiable, planning ahead provides us with a level of flexibility that will prove useful in the coming weeks.


Legal – Application and Renewal Dates


This category includes passports, visas, employment authorization documents, and driving licenses. They need to be considered as a single entity as they are often reliant on one another in a sort of paperwork ‘cascade’, and noting their expiry and renewal dates is vital to your continued expat adventure…

Your passports must have at least six months validity for visas to be issued, so not only must you get them renewed early, you need to set a six week ‘passport free’ zone on your timeline for processing.

Visa application and renewal. The most important component of your timeline – without a visa, you are unlikely to be able to continue working legally in your host country, and you and your family will no longer be considered residents. This has a ‘knock on’ effect on your employment rights, benefits and legal status, so it’s essential that you schedule both time and resources to complete the visa application process carefully.

Bear in mind that many countries require you to apply for a visa outside of the country, regardless of whether or not you are already a resident. Visa applications not only take time to complete in terms of paperwork, notarized documents etc, they also usually insist on an interview. These take place at an embassy of your choice, and are booked in advance. The visa processing then takes upwards of three days, during which you cannot re-enter your host country. Bottom line: your timeline needs to include not only visa preparation time, but at least a week out of the country for the interview and approval process.

As with the visas, employment authorization documents and social security number requests also require original documents such as birth and marriage certificates, so these need to be available (so if you don’t know which box you packed them in, start looking now!), and you won’t have access to them for other purposes for as much as a month after submitting your paperwork.

Within your host country, your driving license will be your most common form of identification, and so should be renewed before it’s expiry date. Depending on the type of visa that you hold, different supporting documents are needed, most commonly your passport and visa, and possibly your Social Security ID card.

Again, you will need to schedule an appointment in advance, so to avoid repeated visits, find out what specific information you will need to provide. And whether or not you will be required to take a test…

If at this point you are panicking at the enormity of it all, don’t. It all sounds far more terrifying than is actually is. Most of the legal requirements have very specific dates and timeframes and so are an easy way to get your timeline started. It’s also comforting to know that you have a plan to get them all done in a timely fashion, rather than that horrific moment when you realize that your driver’s license expired last week and you are due to drive your daughter’s class on a school visit to the courthouse tomorrow…

Been there, done that.

 Photo courtesy of the US National Archives

2 thoughts on “Redefining Relocation 2 – Creating a Family Timeline: Identity and Residence”

  1. Great list. I would say that with all these documents, doing careful research as early as possible is essential, because time frames and requirements can vary wildly. For example when we moved to the UAE we found our birth, marriage certificate & educational certificates had to be stamped by the govt in the country those certificates were issued in(for us, the UK) but then stamped by the UAE embassy in our country of residence (Canada). That literally took weeks of couriers back and forth. Similarly, most people moving to Canada (including Americans) need to bring documentation from their local driving authority in order to obtain a Canadian driving licence. Just bringing the licence itself is not enough.

    1. You are right (as always!) about the research. We consistently underestimated the time the paperwork would take, no matter how much help you get in preparing it. This inevitably meant that we were in a state of last minute panic, with no flexibility and no room for error..
      Thank goodness for the internet, the online resources of the embassies and the power of the search engine!!

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